The Best of Scott Shuger

Slate senior writer Scott Shuger died Saturday, June 15, while scuba diving near his home in Los Angeles. He had been on Slate’s staff since 1997. Though he may be best known as the founder of the “Today’s Papers” feature, in which he summarized and analyzed the contents of five national newspapers every day, Shuger also wrote about topics ranging from the war on terrorism to Internet prostitution. Here are a few favorite examples of his work in Slate.

(Slate’s founding editor Michael Kinsley remembered Shuger in a “Readme” column Sunday. Many Slate readers have posted their own memories of him in “The Fray.”)

Supreme Court Gridlock
June 27, 1997: The debut of Today’s Papers.

“The NYT page-ones a story that publishing giant HarperCollins is reacting to the slump in book sales by canceling completed books, including some already advertised in its catalogs. Among the casualties mentioned are a Jell-O cookbook and a book about celebrity pets.”

My Day in the Movement
In 1970, Shuger—a college freshman at the University of Maryland—is seeking treatment for a broken ankle when he’s unwittingly caught up in a campus protest.

“A huge crowd of students converged on our car as it pulled up. As I was ushered into the infirmary, this freshly radicalized mass parted like the Red Sea. Spying my crippled condition, the crowd began shouting in support, ‘F*ck the Pigs!’ I even heard shouts of ’Viva la Revolución’—a sure sign of outside agitators, since I never met anyone at Maryland who passed Spanish. I had been pegged as the first victim of campus fascism, the Che Guevara of College Park.”

Harvard-Yale Goes Into Overtime
Today’s Papers on the day after Election 2000.

“The papers all lead with a presidential election so close it’s not over yet. They also report, however, that Republicans retain control of the House and Senate, that Hillary Clinton’s win of a New York Senate seat was not even breathtakingly close, and that Mel Carnahan’s win of a Missouri Senate seat was not even breathtaking.”

More Bang for the Buck
Test-driving Viagra, sex toys, and instructional videos.

 ”[My wife] Deb and I have what seems to us to be a perfectly fine amorous life, yet everywhere I turn the culture tells me—almost mocks me—you can do better! What would happen to our sex life, then, if Deb (who participated in this story because she loves me and because she has tenure) and I tried for the first time to make something happen to it?

“And so it was that we found ourselves for the first time ever in a sex-toy store. … The idea behind shops like these is to make obtaining the materials of sexual experimentation as ordinary as purchasing plumbing supplies or housewares. Which sort of works—the only sexual thrill I got from the visit was knowing that Microsoft just bought a cock ring.”

Flights From Reality
The dangers of carry-on luggage.

“There’s a practically endless array of ordinary items that can … be quite dangerous. Pens and pencils, knitting needles, credit cards, combs, and keys can be used to gouge eyes or puncture the throat. Belts and towels can be used to strangle. Perfume, mouthwash, deodorant, or hair spray dispensed from a spray or pump bottle can be used to painfully blind. … An umbrella can serve as a very effective club, as can a bottle of wine or a tightly rolled-up magazine. If the Transportation Security Administration operated with a list that took all such possibilities into account, passengers would be forced to board empty-handed, wearing only a government-issued hospital gown.”

Hitler Slept Here
In search of the Fuhrer’s underground bunker.

“In early May German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder moves into a gleaming new office building with commanding views of Berlin. The last time this city had a new Chancellery, its most important offices were underground—Hitler’s bunker. After Hitler retreated into that structure, in January 1945, he never saw another sunrise or sunset. This is where he ate and slept, held his military briefings, where he married Eva Braun, and where he killed himself some five months later. The Bunker is still down there. But just try to find it.”
How the Web has changed the world’s oldest profession.

“In the 1990 movie Pretty Woman, high-roller Richard Gere is able to secure six full days of Julia Roberts’ sexual services for $3,000. Nowadays (at least here in Los Angeles, where the movie was set), a first-class hooker costs considerably more than $500 a night. One big reason is that, like all other businesses, the oldest one is being utterly transformed by the Internet.”

None Like It Hot
Why it’s so hard to fight a war in bio-chem suits.

One Army officer, who periodically trained with [protective chemical/biological warfare] gear in Saudi Arabia during the summer buildup to the Gulf War, told me that … people who wear the suits in hot weather do have to drink more water to avoid getting dehydrated. But an even bigger problem, he said, is how they’ll have to drink it.”